Salinas, Watsonville police shun immigration actions

Law enforcement officials in Monterey and Santa Cruz counties confirmed this evening that Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents had conducted operations on the Central Coast this week.

Salinas police spokesman Spencer Critchley and Watsonville police Sgt. Henry Robles confirmed Thursday evening that their departments had been informed by ICE agents that operations would be taking place in their jurisdictions.

Other immigration enforcement actions were also reported in King City and Soledad.

Watsonville police Sgt. Henry Robles said:

“They didn’t tell us of any locations to where they would be. They didn’t ask for our cooperation. … Of course we wouldn’t cooperate with them anyway. We’re a sanctuary city.”

Monterey County, Watsonville and Soledad are all sanctuary jurisdictions, meaning police do not cooperate with federal immigration enforcement by holding arrestees in custody past their release date.

James Schwab, a spokesman for ICE, said that he could not confirm that any enforcement had taken place because, per agency policy, ongoing operations are confidential.

A policy that would designate Salinas as a sanctuary city might come before the Salinas City Council in the next month, according to Monterey County Supervisor Luis Alejo.

Alejo commended Salinas Police Chief Adele Frese for her non-engagement in federal immigration enforcement actions:

“The good thing is that when our local police departments are contacted, all of them have said they’re not going to participate.”

Alejo said, explaining that the noncooperation:

“… helps maintain the trust between our immigrant communities and our local police departments.”

In February, then-Santa Cruz Police Chief Kevin Vogel and Mayor Cynthia Chase said police and city officials had been “deceived” by the Department of Homeland Security when agents conducted a raid.

Police assisted in the operation with the understanding that it only targeted gang members. But the Feb. 13 raid resulted in the arrests of 10 people for only their immigration status, in addition to 12 criminal arrests.

All 10 non-criminal arrestees were released, but five were given a summons to appear in immigration court and five were outfitted with GPS monitors.